FAQ: Constructing a 10' bike trail without having to relocate power poles

What can you do when a proposed bike trail encounters obstacles such as power poles.

by American Trails Staff

Proposed bike trail in Shawnee, Kansas

This is a classic problem:

  • Is there enough room to run the trail between the poles and the curb?
  • Is there an eight foot clear space? A different solution would be to make the paved bikeway eight feet wide and add a four foot crushed rock trail for running, walking, etc. on the other side of the poles.
  • Is this part of a major cross-town route? If so, either move the poles or buy wider right of way. How much would it actually cost to move the poles? Same problem on both sides of the road?

One solution is to split the trail into two five-foot one-way treads on either side of the obstacle. Less attractive if you have to do that 20 times around all the poles.

Ideally, the lines could be underground as it would also make for an aesthetic corridor. Some utilities have funds for undergrounding. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AAHSTO) permits going to 8' wide for short distances where no other options are available and use is not very heavy. AAHSTO also calls for a 5' minimum buffer between road and trail or a 42" minimum high barrier. The Minnesota Trails Design Manual shows a minimum 3' buffer.

Another solution might be to create a two-way buffered cycle track by taking out the curb and and using some of the shoulder of the road along with the grassy median-or alternatively pushing the curb out into the road by narrowing the traffic lanes though drainage reconfiguration might be a nightmare.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) publishes the Urban Bikeway Design Guide. This guide is a blueprint for designing 21st century streets. The Guide unveils the toolbox and the tactics cities use to make streets safer, more livable, and more economically vibrant. The Guide outlines both a clear vision for complete streets and a basic road map for how to bring them to fruition.

The Federal Highway Administration's Bicycle and Pedestrian Program's Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide consolidates lessons learned from practitioners designing and implementing separated bike lanes throughout the U.S.

In any and all cases an engineer should be consulted to assure any solution is safe and functional.

Our Resources by State page explores training, articles, organization, and authors by state, which may be helpful.

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Published February 21, 2012

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